Saudi Arabia’s birthday paradox, one day, millions of celebrations

Saudi Arabia’s birthday paradox, one day, millions of celebrations
When identification cards became mandatory in the Kingdom more than 60 years ago many of those who came forward to register had no idea of their precise date of birth. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s birthday paradox, one day, millions of celebrations

Saudi Arabia’s birthday paradox, one day, millions of celebrations
  • The first of Rajab 1/7 is the official fictitious birthday to millions of Saudis who came to this world in the last Hijri century

JEDDAH: Feb. 14 this year was a curious day in Saudi Arabia, the day on which more than 3.5 million Saudis — about a tenth of the population — celebrated their birthday.

When identification cards became mandatory in the Kingdom more than 60 years ago many of those who came forward to register had no idea of their precise date of birth. The older generation of Saudis marked their birthdays by the year of their birth, neglecting the day and month — only a very few knew their exact date of birth, either by a memento such as newspaper clipping or from official birth certificates.
To resolve this headache, about 45 years ago the Ministerial Agency of Civil Affairs chose to register the first of Rajab, the seventh month in the Hijri calendar — 1/7 — as the date of birth for millions of Saudis, even though some of them did know which day they were born on in the Gregorian calendar. The Hijri is the Islamic calendar that is used for official dates.
“If you’re a 1/7 baby, then you’re definitely from jeel al-tayebeen (the good generation),” said Jamal Al-Ibrahim, a former banker and business owner. “I’m the eldest of 5 and all five of us share the same birthday. My mother would throw us separate birthday parties spread across the year, as we disliked shared birthdays. But now, as we’re all older and have our own families, we celebrate it together. We have one shared birthday, and then our own separate Gregorian birthdays. It’s a big family affair and an inside joke that millions of Saudis share.”
This year marks an extra special day for Muneera Al-Ghamdi and her husband Gassem Al-Ghamdi with the first of Rajab falling on Valentine’s Day. Their 45th wedding anniversary falls on Feb. 17, so with both parents sharing the same birthday, their children decided to throw them an extra special celebration on Feb. 14.
“My siblings and I decided to move up their anniversary date to coincide with the other occasions and get the whole family to join in on the celebrations,” their daughter Samira told Arab News. “We decided to fill the house with balloons and decorations and have the family join in via Zoom to mark the occasion,” she said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The older generation of Saudis marked their birthdays by the year of their birth, neglecting the day and month — only a very few knew their exact date of birth, either by a memento such as newspaper clipping or from official birth certificates.

• To resolve this headache, about 45 years ago the Ministerial Agency of Civil Affairs chose to register the first of Rajab, the seventh month in the Hijri calendar — 1/7 — as the date of birth for millions of Saudis, even though some of them did know which day they were born on in the Gregorian calendar.

After a rough year with her mother getting sick with COVID-19, it was good to celebrate the occasion in a special way.
“My father would always joke and poke fun at my mother saying that though they share a birthday, he’ll always be the young and handsome one and her reply is always: ‘Your receding hairline says otherwise’.”
“It’s what makes us Saudis feel even more special,” joked Eng. Zain Mahmoud, “though it’s not easily to explain when traveling,” he said.
“Almost 15 years ago, I was flying to Washington, DC with my sister, wife and kids. When I gave all the passports to the officer at passport control at Dulles Airport, they found that my wife, sister and I all shared the same birthdays but different years. It took an hour to convince them that it’s an old and odd system but they found it funny and let us go. It could have been worse, so I vowed not to stand in the same line as them again.”
To mark the occasion, one Riyadh coffee shop is joining in the fun. “The first of Rajab 1/7 is the official fictitious birthday to millions of Saudis who came to this world in the last Hijri century. The family of #Omar_Coffee welcomes them on their birthdays and offers them coffee for SR 7 only today,” @Omr_Coffee tweeted.


Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17

Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17
Saudi Arabia’s flagship carrier is getting ready to fly on May 17. (SPA)
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17

Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17
  • Saudia was ranked among the top 10 airlines worldwide for its health and safety measures and received the highest certification by APEX Health Safety in January

JEDDAH: The Kingdom’s flagship carrier is preparing for full-capacity operations ahead of the lift of the travel ban next month, with Saudis eager to safely return to traveling during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser chaired a meeting with the Saudia airline board of directors to discuss preparations for the return of international flights on May 17.
The date will mark the end of the suspension of international travel for Saudi citizens by land, air, and sea.
The minister expressed his thanks for the efforts made to safely continue domestic flights by limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Saudia was ranked among the top 10 airlines worldwide for its health and safety measures and received the highest certification by APEX Health Safety in January.
Saudis are feeling more comfortable with the idea of traveling abroad again.
Ismail Ayoub, 30, said he will travel as soon as the opportunity strikes, with Dubai being his first choice due to their high safety standards. “Safety is one factor, another reason is I have good contacts in Dubai and in the region, so this is an opportunity to reconnect with them,” Ayoub told Arab News.
“The closeness of Dubai to the Kingdom makes it very convenient as well,” he added.
Ayoub said he will travel to countries where tourism offerings follow the strict COVID-19 safety guidelines. “I would avoid countries with unmanaged crowds. I want to enjoy my trip while staying safe.”

Saudis are feeling more comfortable with the idea of traveling abroad again. (SPA)

Software engineer Alia Al-Sadat, 27, said she is glad to have the option to travel but would rather postpone her international flight plans until the global cases drop.
“I feel very safe in the Kingdom. I’m happy to simply travel between Jeddah and Riyadh, or even go and explore AlUla,” Al-Sadat told Arab News.
She highlighted that the travel restrictions were a good opportunity to explore the Kingdom.
“Many people do not know it, but Saudi Arabia has some spectacular destinations. This year made me want to explore places like Abha, Taif and of course Umluj,” she added.


Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan

Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan
Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly. (SPA)
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan

Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan
  • There are 8,360 active cases, 915 of them are critical

JEDDAH: With a few days to go before the start of Ramadan, Saudi health authorities are warning the Kingdom’s residents to remain vigilant and stick to safety precautions put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
During a press conference on Sunday, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly reminded residents of the importance of following the precautions.
“Last year’s Ramadan was unlike any other Ramadan that we have experienced,” he said, adding that visitors to mosques would need to follow set guidelines, such as bringing their own prayer mats, attending prayer on time, socially distancing and staying clear of overcrowding.
He also highlighted the importance of following precautions during family gatherings. “We are used to family gatherings during Ramadan — they are special and bring the family together — but we must limit the number of visitors in gatherings.”
On Saturday, the MoH announced it would be postponing second doses of COVID-19 vaccines in order to ensure more people receive their first dose.
“The challenges are a race against time. We want to ensure that the most vulnerable are prioritized and receive their first vaccine to gain immunity,” Al-Abd Al-Aly said, adding that cancelled slots would be rearranged automatically.
“The second dose acts as a booster to the immunity one develops after the first dose,” he said.

INNUMBERS

398,435 Total cases

383,321 Recoveries

6,754 Deaths

8,360 Active cases

A total of 799 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the Kingdom on Sunday, meaning 398,435 people in Saudi Arabia have now contracted the disease.
There are 8,360 active cases, 915 of them are critical.
In addition, 548 new recovered cases were announced, taking the total number of recoveries to 383,321. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is holding steady at 96.2 percent.
Seven new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 6,754.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 6.25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. A total of 58,897 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to 15,797,442.
Elsewhere, 30,054 violations of precautionary and preventive measures were reported over the past week. The highest numbers of violations were in Riyadh (11,162), Makkah (5,883), and the Eastern Province (4,183). Jazan (155) and Najran (132) had the lowest number of reported violations.
The Ministry of Interior stressed that citizens and residents must continue to adhere to the preventive measures and instructions issued by the authorities for their own safety and the safety of fellow citizens and residents.


Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers

Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers
The ministry reminded people for the need to follow the preventive measures to ensure the safety, health and security of those visiting the two holy mosques. (SPA)
Updated 12 April 2021

Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers

Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers
  • Taraweeh, Qiyam prayers should not exceed 30 minutes in all mosques

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has set guidelines and protocols for issuing Umrah and prayer permits for the month of Ramadan. 
Vaccinations are at the top of the priority list as no worshippers are allowed into either Makkah’s Grand Mosque or Madinah’s Prophet’s Mosque without having received at least one dose of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine.
Permits will only be allowed through the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna apps, and will not be provided for unvaccinated individuals, as the latest Tawkkalna update has designated each category with a color code and barcode specific to their health status.
Unauthorized vehicles will not be allowed in the central region around Makkah, and visitors must arrive on time or risk losing their time slot.
Children will not be allowed to enter either mosques, nor the courtyards around the mosques.

HIGHLIGHT

Permits will only be allowed through the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna apps, and will not be provided for unvaccinated individuals, as the latest Tawkkalna update has designated each category with a color code and barcode specific to their health status.

The Ministry of Interior issued a warning that a SR10,000 ($26,671) fine will be issued to pilgrims wishing to perform Umrah without permits, and a SR1,000 fine for worshippers trying to enter the mosques without one.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance issued a statement saying that Taraweeh and Qiyam prayers should not exceed 30 minutes in all mosques in the Kingdom. This comes after King Salman issued a decision to permit Taraweeh prayers in the two holy mosques and reduce them to five tasleemat.
The ministry reminded people for the need to follow the preventive measures to ensure the safety, health and security of those visiting the two holy mosques.


Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims

Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims
Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad. (SPA)
Updated 11 April 2021

Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims

Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims
  • Psychological, educational, and legal consultations are provided to the beneficiaries in cooperation with a number of specialists at the HRC

JEDDAH: Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC), has launched a specialized group to support victims of sexual harassment and their families with psychological counseling and educational, social, and legal guidance with strict confidentiality.
The group will enhance protection for victims of harassment and raise awareness about its impact on individuals and society.
Al-Awwad said the launch is part of the measures and regulations that the Kingdom has adopted to protect and support victims of harassment, including the anti-harassment law, child protection system, and law on protection from abuse.
The group will address these effects to help victims overcome trauma, to ensure it does not occur again, and to inform families and the relevant authorities in the event of a new exposure to harassment.
The group is supervised by HRC board member Dr. Sarah bint Omar Al-Abdulkarim, in cooperation with consultant psychiatrist Dr. Meshal Al-Aqeel and Dr. Amal Bannunah, a professional adviser in protection and sex education expert. Psychological, educational, and legal consultations are provided to the beneficiaries in cooperation with a number of specialists at the HRC. 


Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting

Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting

Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting
  • Supreme Court says it will hold another session on Monday evening

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s moon sighting committee said on Sunday that the crescent for the month of Ramadan could not be seen from the Tamir and Hawtat observatories in Sudair, due to the weather conditions. 
Following a meeting on Sunday, corresponding to Shaban 29, according to the Umm Al-Qura lunar calendar, the Supreme Court said that it had not received any evidence of the crescent sighting in the evening.
The Supreme Court said it would hold another session on Monday evening, and issue a decision on the start of Muslim fasting month.